Millions have viewed a stark, simple 104-minute documentary by Chinese journalist and mother Chai Jing since she uploaded it to popular video-sharing site Youku last week. Titled “Under the Dome,” the documentary captures the filmmaker’s experience as a concerned parent living among the dense smog of Beijing, and investigates the sources of the devastating pollution. The documentary quickly gripped China, receiving over 20 million views by Monday morning, and prompting an outpouring of concerned comments and shared outrage in a nation where the media is strictly controlled. As of the time of writing, the video has been viewed more than 155 million times.
Tens of thousands of commenters have chimed in on the conversation, and it has been reposted across the web with subtitles in a growing number of languages. Chai Jing has received significant praise for the film which—as a film that is critical of the Chinese government—could only be produced once she had left her job with China’s state-run media. Knowing that it was the only way to create the documentary the way she intended, Chai produced it with her own money.
Perhaps surprisingly, China has not yet blocked access to the video, though the New York Times reports that some media outlets have removed references to the documentary from their websites, “perhaps at the behest of nervous propaganda officials.” Furthermore, China’s new minister of environmental protection, Chen Jining, has praised the video, stating, “I think this work has an important role in promoting public awareness of environmental health issues.”
The creation, publication and growing reach of Under the Dome is a pretty phenomenal accomplishment. As Chai notes, as recently as January 2013, the issue of smog was not widely discussed in China’s capital—but with the video receiving such attention and feedback, perhaps that trend has finally turned.
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